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on April 6, 2001
** UPDATED NOV-15-2012 **

An extraordinary film has now become an extraordinary Blu-ray. David Lean's 1962 desert epic film about the enigmatic British officer T.E. Lawrence and his successes and struggles in the Arab countries during the early 20th Century remains (sadly) as relevant as ever regarding the Western world's unending struggles in the Middle East regions. The Oscar-winning classic is also a landmark event in film history, as it set a very high standard in epic film-making, acting, and, for the making of this Blu-ray, in film restoration as well. Director Lean and then-unknown actor Peter O'Toole's contribution in this film remain influential in the five decades since the film's initial release. And if it had not been for the efforts of restorers Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten, who discovered the film's original negative inside crushed and rusting film cans in Columbia's vaults in the 1980s, and proceeded to restore it to its original glory, we would not have had the pleasure of holding this Blu-ray in our hands. This 2-disc Blu-ray exclusive (no corresponding DVD is available) and a 4-disc (3 Blu-rays plus CD soundtrack) box set are the result of multi-year efforts on the part of the best professionals in the film business.

The aforementioned restoration by Harris & Painten, completed in 1989 and yielding a 227-minute director's cut, was the basis of this Blu-ray release. The running time is sometimes indicated as 217 minutes, which is the running time without all the music interludes: overture, intermission, and exit music.

With a great film restoration as the basis, a digital scan in 4K resolution of the negative, and the great capacity and superior video & audio specs of a Blu-ray disc, this Blu-ray is unsurprisingly the look and sound of perfect, to borrow an old phrase. The picture is across-the-board perfect. Colors, brightness, contrast, and the amount of details are presented in demo-perfect levels, making the gorgeous deep-focus photography by Freddie Young an absolute pleasure to look at. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless English track, also based on material gained from the 1989 restoration, in which the restorers went to such great lengths as having the actors re-record missing dialogs, is the best this movie has ever sounded on home video. Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Japanese tracks are also included. Subtitle options are English, French, Japanese, Arabic, and Dutch. Those who need a Spanish audio track would need to get the region-free UK Blu-ray to get it, as the US Blu-ray does not have it.

The term "4K scan" refers to the 4096 horizontal pixels, a scanning density that is believed to be required to capture all the details of a 35mm film frame. Since "Lawrence of Arabia" was filmed in 65mm, almost twice as wide as 35mm film, it is apt to call this an "8K scan". Hence, some publications refer to this as an 8K scan, although 4K is a correct term as well if you talk about scanning density.

All 227 minutes of the film were put on a single Region-free dual-layered Blu-ray disc, hence no disc break as in older DVD editions. The overture, intermission, and the exit music are all played to a black screen, as per director David Lean's original wish.

Regarding bonus features, the movie disc also contains a "picture-in-graphics track" that is vaguely similar to a DVD-ROM feature (remember PCFriendly?) of the 2001 DVD edition, in which the movie playback is accompanied by on-screen trivias, stills, and maps. But fresh material seems to be used for this Blu-ray. The interface could be a little unwieldly, as the screen is divided into four areas with smallish navigational controls.

A second Blu-ray disc contains more bonuses, which include all featurettes (but not the trailers) found on the 2001 DVD edition. A couple of surprises here. Two vintage shorts, "In Search for Lawrence" and "Romance of Arabia", which were presented in crappy black-and-white on the 2001 DVD, are in glorious color on the Blu-ray, and in nice 1080p HD to boot. A nice brand-new extra is a new 21-minute interview, in HD, of Peter O'Toole, accompanied by film clips and stills.

All other extras on the 2001 DVD are presented unchanged on the Blu-ray, except that all have English, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai subtitles. These features include an hour-long making-of documentary, a Steven Spielberg interview, a newreel of the New York premiere, a montage of publicity material, and vintage shorts "The Camels Are Cast" and "Wind, Sand and Star".


Apart from the slightly soft, washed-out picture quality during the opening credits of the movie, the DVD edition of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is superb. The movie itself is spread onto 2 discs, with the disc break occurs just before Intermission. The Overture, Intermission, and the exit music are all played to a black screen, as per director David Lean's original wish. The picture quality looks as fresh and clean as, quite frankly, any film made in the 90s. In the dramatic shot where Lawrence appears on the far horizon after he rescued his Arab companion, the higher picture resolution of DVD makes it possible for us to notice his tiny figure whereas on VHS tapes or laserdisc it is so small it is almost impossible to see. Anyone who is serious about watching this film should get this DVD instead of any other version in order to appreciate the opulent cinematography and majestic atmosphere of this epic.

The disc has over 100 minutes of old and new documentaries and news footage about the making of the film, plus two well-designed DVD-ROM features (for Windows PC only): a interactive map showing the various journeys undertaken by the real T.E. Lawrence, and a "split-screen" feature that simultaneously plays the movie and shows you text of behind-of-scene information of the particular chapter of the movie that is playing. Since the DVD lacks a second audio commentary, being able to watch the film while reading facts about it is not a bad substitute.

The included "booklet" is a reproduction of the 1961 program given to theater goers, we are told. A nice touch: the disc case resembles Lawrence's diary in the movie.
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VINE VOICEon June 11, 2003
It is unsurprising to me that some people find Lawrence of Arabia boring. If you have the attention span of a hummingbird, this is not a film you will enjoy. It has no car chases, no bikini-clad supermodels, and nary a kung-fu move to be seen. Instead, all it offers is tortured respect for everything it touches. Lawrence of Arabia is a film that elevated the art of cinematic storytelling to new heights, and it shows. It is the journey, not the destination, that the viewer should focus on. In order to enjoy this film, you must make a commitment to watch it. Get comfortable, have something to drink on hand (you'll know why about halfway through), turn off the phone, and put the remote under a pillow. I've seen a lot of films, and some I've liked to varying degrees, and others I've simply been satisfied that Hollywood didn't butcher the underlying work or premise too badly in pursuit of the lowest common denominator. Lawrence of Arabia is different. It is one of those truly rare films that makes you feel grateful for having seen it, for the efforts of all those involved to craft, create, and perserve over the years just so you might have the chance to see it. It is such a fine film that its merits are obvious, and negative statements about it tend to simply reflect back on the critic.
Why? Many reasons. The actors are likewise gifted with rare talent, and superbly cast. The settings and scenes are invariably breathtaking. The plot is engrossing and entertaining without ever becoming heavy-handed. Film students will while away hours discussing everything from the Christ imagery to the undercurrents of homoeroticism, but they do that with every film. I suggest you simply kick back and enjoy an excellent, time-honored epic about a stranger in a strange land. It is a harrowing, draining journey, but one you will not regret.
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on November 7, 2010
Dear Amazon,

Please stop posting reviews for films that are, essentially, written for another version of the DVD's (and cd's) and not the one posted.

There are several DVD versions of Lawrence of Arabia. They all differ wildly from each other in picture and sound quality.

How do you expect us to chose which is best for us if you post the same review from the 2001 version over and over and over again?
"Best dvd version yet."

Yeah, right - in 2001 that may have been true. But Amazon, you've posted this review for every version of this DVD even though the review was for a DVD originally released in 2001!
Lawrence of Arabia has been remastered twice since then, and the subsquent versions are very, very different.

Please stop this and take some responsibility and post reviews ONLY for their specific versions - or at least specify that the review was written for another version.
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on September 22, 2012
The Blu-ray edition of Lawrence of Arabia is spectacular in every way. The first impression is sonic, with the overture by French composer Maurice Jarre played over a blank screen, soon followed by truly astounding images from the deserts of Arabia (actually Jordan and Morocco). The clarity, minute detail and brilliant color of the picture made it difficult to believe I was watching a fifty-year-old film. Every facet of the filmmaker's art is showcased here at an extreme level of competence and inspiration. Lawrence of Arabia's revered status with film fans can only be further enhanced by this high definition re-mastering.

British director David Lean had long wanted to do a production based on T.E. Lawrence's autobiography, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but the anticipated scope and consequent cost of the film were prohibitive. With the success of his 1957 Bridge On the River Kwai (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor Alec Guinness) the necessary funding became available. The story of Lawrence, his Arab cavalry and their campaign against the Turks on the desert fringe of the First World War would come to the screen. The effort and expense were rewarded with another raft of Oscars for 1962, including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Musical Score, Art Direction and Sound.

Two of the ten special features are exclusive to the Blu-ray, one being an interview with Peter O'Toole many years after the film was made. The other exclusive feature, the only special feature on the disc with the film itself, is called Picture in Graphics - Secrets of Arabia. I was not enthused, thinking this would be a mere gallery of production photographs, but it turned out to be a very special device for students of the history of film or of T.E. Lawrence. It is an extensive combination of commentary, maps and historic photographs. These are all intercut and superimposed on live action from the film, from opening scene to closing credits, including soundtrack. Have you ever wondered while watching a fact-based film, "how valid is this depiction?" Well, here's your chance to find out. This extra feature offers superb detail, allowing one to construct a more nearly complete and accurate story. Scene after scene, the events, locations, actors and characters are commented upon. For example, we find out that the two boys who attached themselves to Lawrence as servants in fact existed, and both died in the course of the war, but not under the circumstances depicted in the film.

This is a superb Blu-ray production, fully worthy of an exceptional film.
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on March 26, 2008
For me this epic film is tied with "A Bridge On The River Kwai" as the best movie ever made. This film had everything & more. The peerless acting of Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Jack Hawkins, & Anthony Quinn were perfectly cast for their respective roles. Fine cinematography, direction, action, suspense, special effects, & musical score made this a mammoth production that took two years to complete.

Set in world war one in the turbulent middle east, T.E.Lawrence attempts to unite the Arabs to overthrow their Ottoman Turkish rulers. He starts as a mapmaker for British intelligence in Cairo. From the very first frames you can feel the extraordinary WILL of this man. He burns himself with matches saying to his comrade "the trick is not to mind that it hurts." He is sent to spy on King Feisal{Alec Guinness}, but he soon finds that he identifies more with the arabs than with his fellow Brit's. His brutal journey to the king under the scorching desert Sun alone is worth four stars. He develops an unexpected & intruiging relationship with an arab chieftain Sherif Ali{Omar Sharif}, that moves the film ever forward. Without orders he crosses the desert to lead a motley group of fifty men joining Auda Abu Tayi{Anthony Quinn}, to attack the Turks at Aqaba. With the victory comes his fame as US reporter Jackson Bentley{Arthur Kennedy}, brings the story to the media's attention. He moves from one gruelling adventure to another showing an indomitable will that encourages his men to fight above what they thought their own abilities were. Lawrence Of Arabia is an epic that celebrates the empty silence of the arabian desert. the vast clips across the glowing desert show a tiny rider approaching, mesmerizing sunsets, battles, & camp details make this a masterpiece. Peter O'Toole gave the greatest performance ever in this film. I'm not saying that Gregory Peck did not deserve the Oscar for "To Kill A Mockingbird," just that O'Toole deserved it a little more. The former still has never won the Oscar, which for me is an unpardonable sin!
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on September 10, 2003
I won't review the movie. That's all been said before. And reading the other reviews will make you aware of the extraordinary restoration effort that was put into this masterpiece for its re-release in 70 mm 15 years ago. But no matter how good that release was, it didn't translate well to home video. I've had a VHS version and also own the DVD release from two years ago. That deluxe disc set had the entire three-hour plus film on one disc and was not properly color corrected. (The second disc IS chock full of newsreel footage and other extras if you enjoy that sort of thing)
Now comes the Superbit release, which spreads the movie across two discs, dramatically increasing the bit rate. For once, Superbit really comes through and great improves the DVD experience. There are no extras. But the quality of the video is amazing. Key to this was the involvement in this edition of Robert Harris, who worked with David Lean and the film's cinematographer on the 1988 restoration. Mr. Harris details on the time spent on this new DVD release to get everything right.
The results are excellent. It's like a veil was lifted from the film to fully reveal the magnificent details of the desert landscapes. The 5.1 and DTS mixes are also top notch.
Whatever you have heard about Superbit, this is the version of the title to own and one of the major DVD releases of this or any other year. If you enjoy this film, you owe it to yourself to rent or buy this version.
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on July 25, 2008
There are actually 4 versions of this movie on DVD:

1. Bare bones single disc version (don't bother; I agree with reviewer)
2. 2-disc limited edition (which has lots of extras but the film quality is not the best of the versions out there) - 2001 release
3. 2-disc superbit edition (which doesn't have the extras but the film quality is superior to the limited edition) - 2003 release (out of print but can get on amazon marketplace or ebay)
4. 2-disc collector's edition (which has the extras and the superbit version of the film which is an excellent version also) - 2008 release

Hope that helps.
PS - I would only recommend #3 or #4 as the film quality is better on these version than #1 or #2.
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on September 11, 2012
Edited: August 2015

This is customer review number 456. Most of the previous reviews describe past DVD (& VHS) releases of the film which are of no relevance to the Blu-ray version. This review is about the Blu-ray version. Some of the information given here has been taken from comments made by others about my review posted at Amazon UK.

If you buy "Lawrence of Arabia" from Amazon US (All Regions) the language options are English, French (dubbed) and Japanese (dubbed) plus English, Dutch and Arabic subtitles. If you buy from Amazon UK (Region B/2) the language options are English and Spanish (dubbed) plus English, Spanish and Hindi subtitles.

I purchased "Lawrence von Arabien" from Amazon.deutschland for 11.76 Euros (exc. 19% MwSt). This Blu-ray has the original English soundtrack and complete dubbing in both German and Italian plus subtitles in English, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish and Turkish. A 2-disc "Collector's Edition" DVD was issued in 2001 with English, German and Spanish audio options (plus subtitles in 19 languages) but the German dubbing was incomplete – reverting to English in places – since the audio was taken from an earlier German release which had been greatly edited.

If the visual information provided by Amazon is enlarged it can be seen that there are four discs clearly labelled as follows: "Disc 1 Feature Film", "Disc 2 Special Features", "Disc 3 Special Features", and "Soundtrack CD".

The source for the "Soundtrack CD" remains unreported. An Amazon UK review for the Tadlow Music re-recording (ASIN: B003YCM0HM) at Amazon UK tells us how "the original music cues, the actual magnetic tracks that Maurice Jarre had recorded the music for LAWRENCE on, [were] thrown into the garbage. The only way to preserve the music during the 1988 restoration by Robert Harris was by using ... the Music and Effects tracks, which somehow survived. ... the effects and music are already mixed so there is not much that can be done during a restoration remix ... Any other music would have to come from the M&E and would be full of effects but no dialogue. ...". Another reviewer assures us that the CD included in the box set isn’t that of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra's re-recording since "Sony made no effort to license out this disc and instead [used] masters that were of much lower quality for the soundtrack disc."

There are now two issues of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra's re-recording of "Lawrence of Arabia" conducted by Nic Raine:

Firstly, there's ASIN B003YCM0HM – issued 21 September 2010 – by Tadlow Music which has two discs: CD 1 – "Lawrence of Arabia" and CD 2 – "The Music of Maurice Jarre".

Secondly, there's ASIN B008DL447S – issued 14 August 2012 – by Silva America which has just one disc with "Lawrence of Arabia".

Those wanting to know where the film's locational shots were taken might like to refer to "The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations" (ISBN 1840232072) by Tony Reeves. Seville – with some over-the-top 1929 pseudo-Moorish buildings – was used to represent WWI Cairo.

I have suggested to Amazon that the Blu-ray version of "Lawrence of Arabia" ought to have its own listing instead of the reviews being listed along with the other versions. Amazon has replied as follows:

"We link different editions, bindings, formats or color variations of a product in our system to make it easier for customers to find the version they're looking for. Our intention is to provide all the relevant review information we possibly can, regardless of the version. As a result, the same reviews appear on the product detail pages for all versions.

"However, since you believe it would be better listed separately I will pass your message along to the team involved with future development of our Communities features."

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on December 18, 2012
My memory of the motion picture Lawrence of Arabia goes back to seeing it in glorious 70mm at a first run theatre in Philadelphia back in the '60s. Having previously purchased a fine DVD copy of the movie, I was hopeful the new Blu-ray version would come even closer to my visual remembrance of that film.

To say the least, I wasn't disappointed. On my 55" Panasonic Plasma screen the Blu-ray is superior to the DVD in depth, tonal range, color and detail. For instance, when viewing distant scenes we can still discern details of figures and animals, while in the regular DVD they appear as indistinct blobs. The viewing experience doesn't quite come up to seeing in 70mm on a huge screen in a theatre, but it's as good as it gets on a home screen.
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on July 21, 2003
As the editor and publisher of I can say with a high degree of confidence that Lawrence of Arabia remains one of Lean's most treasured films--and with good reason. It is a film that can be analyzed and appreciated on all artistic fronts: an exceptional screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson; ground breaking and stunning cinematography by Freddy Young; flawless editing by Anne V. Coates; and one of the great scores from any film by Maurice Jarre. The film's placement as one of the greatest films ever made is not hyperbole, it is truly an original film that will never be equaled.
Unfortunately I cannot recommend the deluxe edition released on DVD despite its wealth of additional features. The transfer in this DVD is terribly flawed. The Main Titles are smeared and the color is off in many of the scenes. Additionally, Columbia decided to fiddle with the audio tracks by re-editing or remixing a few important scenes. These include the infamous scene of Lawrence walking atop the railroad cars, and the scene right before the intermission as Lawrence is walking back towards the officers to be congratulated. Both contain misplaced audio cues that, had David Lean still been alive, would have endured a thorough verbal lashing from him. They are ill timed and poorly done. (The correct audio cues can be found on the Portuguese audio track.) Given the film's history of tampering, it is appalling that the studio continues to "mess" with the film's contents rather than release the film as Lean desired. Hopefully the next (third) release of the film as a SuperBit edition will correct these errors (I have been assured by someone close to this production that they will be).
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